Celebrating 75 Years | A Q&A With Our Team
At Empire, we are proud of all that we’ve been able to accomplish in our 75 years, but what stands out is the long tenure that we have with our employees. We have some of the best in the business and their consistent dedication and hard work help make us who we are as a company.
We asked some of our seasoned employees to take a walk down memory lane with us and recall some of their favorite memories over the years. Here’s what they had to say.
WHAT IS AN EARLY OR FAVORITE MEMORY FROM OVER THE YEARS?
- “I was 21 years old when I first started and only one week out of college with an Interior Design degree. In the early 80’s there were very few jobs, so when I was offered one at Empire Office, I took it without question even though I wasn’t quite sure what a furniture dealer even was. I was hired for a 17-floor project for Chemical Bank. The salesperson and I hand wrote the order and hand-drafted the drawings.” – Judy Field, a 40-year veteran
- “On my first day, I remember walking in and seeing the receptionist. She was very nice and told me where I needed to go, but being my first day in a new office, I still felt very alone. Then walking through the doors into the sales area, the first 2 people I saw were former high school classmates of mine. I didn’t realize before I accepted the position that Empire’s owners were from my hometown, and we had mutual friends. It was a sign that I was home.” – Susie Travia, a 21-year veteran
- “When I first started, a purchase order came in for the large financial client I worked on. I received a phone call from Abe Gaslow (Empire’s founder), and he said, “thanks for taking care of them.” It stuck with me all these years that the owner of the company took a minute out of his day to recognize my efforts and say thank you.” – Pete Competiello, a 34-year veteran
- “Some of my favorite early Empire memories are the Steelcase Thanksgiving parades. We would watch from 4CC and look out on the balloons and street performers. My kids loved going when they were little, and I had the opportunity to introduce them to so many of my colleagues and clients.” – Tricia Cashin, a 33-year veteran
- “My favorite memory is the camaraderie of all my fellow employees. Back in the early days, we were like a family both in & out of the office. Also, marrying my husband!!” – Barbara King-Paluzzi, a 39-year veteran
- “One of my favorite memories was going to a project interview where the participants did not let me present my role on a project. Instead, I was remembered from past projects for my skills and abilities and I was praised for how well I had performed. It was wonderful and a great source of pride for me that they recalled and appreciated my efforts.” – Sara Cohen, a 20-year veteran
- “The owners used to gift turkeys for Thanksgiving. That stopped when someone left their turkey under their desk for the whole weekend. The smell welcoming us back on Monday was atrocious, and that ended the turkey giving. Instead, they gave vouchers going forward.” – Gladys Colon, a 32-year veteran
- “Our holiday parties were always lots of fun and the office Halloween contests were great –what creativity and talented individuals!” – Suzanne Pelletier, a 21-year veteran
- “My earliest memory at Empire was my interview with Larry Gaslow. We did not have computers or HR Departments in those days. He asked me to write my name on a piece of paper to check my penmanship since we wrote orders by hand. Needless to say, I was hired! – Susan Gendal, a 42-year veteran
WHAT WORK ACCOMPLISHMENT ARE YOU ESPECIALLY PROUD OF?
- “A large project for one of our national clients in New York City. It was 27 floors, and included an outside hoist, bad weather, crazy deadlines, impossible situations, and lots of pressure — we got it done on time.” – Pete Competiello, 34-year veteran
- “I am very proud of the work I did for a financial account back in the early 90’s. I covered the account for a sales rep when she went on maternity leave, and when she decided not to return following her leave, the client requested me to be the lead rep on the account because of the great job I was doing. Larry Gaslow gave me a shot to start in sales that day.” – Tricia Cashin, a 33-year veteran
- “Most recently it was doing an executive floor at the start of COVID. We were in the middle of the installation, but the client was deemed essential so we could finish. Even with the hardship of managing furniture, client expectations, and daily changing COVID protocol, we were able to complete with tremendous customer satisfaction.” – Sara Cohen, a 20-year veteran
WHAT DO YOU LIKE MOST ABOUT WORKING AT EMPIRE?
- “It is like a big family!” – Linda Lauro, a 39-year veteran
- “The way we keep reinventing ourselves, both in brand and in function and are ahead of the industry.” – Susie Travia, a 21-year veteran
- “Working with a lot of people that I respect and learning new things every day!”– Barbara King-Paluzzi, a 39-year veteran
- “I have been fortunate to work with amazing people who I learned so much from. The job growth opportunities that I was afforded were amazing. I was a designer, a PM, a manager, and now SVP of Specifier Services and Project Management.” – Judy Field, a 40-year veteran
- “What I enjoy most is that I’m always busy and it’s never boring. I also really enjoy seeing a project through from the beginning. When you start with just a raw space and a plan, then to see the completed result, it’s so rewarding. Also, seeing a client happy makes me feel proud of the work I’ve done.” – Tricia Cashin, a 33-year veteran
- “Empire has a wonderful team of knowledgeable people which helps us to be successful with what we do. Without this, our job would be harder.” – Sara Cohen, a 20-year veteran
- “We really have great people working here. That’s what makes Empire what is it. The close relationships of my co-workers and some of our vendors throughout the years, many of whom are long-lasting friends still to this day.” – Gladys Colon, a 32-year veteran
- “Empire is extremely team-oriented and always focuses on ensuring that the best efforts are put forward both for their employees and customers.” – Suzanne Pelletier, a 21-year veteran
WHAT MOTIVATES YOU AT WORK?
- “Every day there is a new challenge. You need a combination of work ethic, pride, and accomplishment. At the end of the day, we are responsible for millions of dollars and making sure our client is satisfied.” – Pete Competiello, a 34-year veteran
- “That every day, no matter how long I have been here, I learn something new. Every day, I am challenged by an issue that I didn’t see coming and I need to solve it. And with every new thing I learn, and every new issue I resolve, I get better at my job.” – Susie Travia, a 21-year veteran
- “The people around me with bright attitudes motivate me to bring that energy to the work environment.” – Tricia Cashin, a 33-year veteran
- “My motivation comes from a very satisfied customer, and projects with no punchlist!” – Sara Cohen, a 20-year veteran
- “The people around me and the talent we have at Empire. When it comes down to it, we get it done.” – Gladys Colon, a 32-year veteran
WHAT HAS CHANGED THE MOST ABOUT EMPIRE SINCE YOU STARTED?
- “Empire has grown into a much larger machine with greater capabilities. Today, we are a true full-service provider – much more than just a commercial furniture dealer.” – Pete Competiello, a 34-year veteran
- “The size. When I started, we were one office, and one warehouse. Now we have 4 warehouses and 6 offices in multiple states. Also, the way we work has changed. The migration to work from home has also increased my focus and efficiency.” – Susie Travia, a 21-year veteran
- “Electronics. Information is easy to get to regardless of where you are working from, as well as communication with all members.” – Sara Cohen, a 20-year veteran
- “The technology has evolved tremendously. Back then everything was hand-written on a 4-part carbon copy order sheet. Also, the company’s growth as well. To still be here after so many tragic world events, says a lot about the company’s backbone.” – Gladys Colon, a 32-year veteran
- “The changes in the business are very exciting and very competitive. I really appreciate how Empire reinvents itself to keep up with the needs of their clients, but still realizes the need for the core values that have been with us for so many years. Values that helped get us to where we are today.” – Judy Field, a 40-year veteran
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